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Justice Minister Peter MacKay said there is an “ongoing investigation” involving Ontario cabinet minister Michael Chan, suspected by Canada’s spy agency of being too close to the Chinese government at a time when Beijing has been accused of trying to exert foreign influence.

Clearly there are people outside our country, as inside our country, who would seek to exert influence

In an interview with The Canadian Press, he added: “I think it’s fair to say it’s incumbent upon all public officials to be very diligent in how they conduct themselves and to be wary of that fact, wary of who they’re talking to, wary of what, if anything, that they would disclose in those discussions.”

Mr. MacKay’s comments reinforced the gulf between the federal and Ontario governments over the handling of Mr. Chan. Premier Kathleen Wynne on Tuesday defended her minister, saying any concerns about Mr. Chan were “baseless,” and the federal spy agency’s suspicions lacked substance.

“All of those have been addressed. There was nothing of substance that has been brought forward to me,” the Premier said during an unrelated factory tour in Cambridge, Ont. “Michael Chan has done his job with respect and with honour. He has worked incredibly hard for the people of Ontario and he continues to do so.” She added: “He has my trust.”

CSIS was concerned that Mr. Chan was susceptible to foreign influence and took the extraordinary step of briefing Queen’s Park on the matter in 2010, The Globe and Mail revealed on Tuesday. Mr. Chan was never accused of espionage, nor was he under formal investigation. The minister dismissed CSIS’s concerns in an October interview with The Globe.